Want to know a secret? According to Statista, the restaurant industry sold almost $800 billion worth of food and drink in 2018. As if that’s not enough, there are over 660,000 restaurants in the United States alone.

Ever wanted to buy a restaurant? We’re here to help. Take a look at your ultimate guide to getting a career in restaurant purchasing!

Sourcing the Food Purchasing Market

Question: where do restaurants get their food? To be quite honest with you, food supply sources vary from place to place. What we do know is that bigger cities typically have way more suppliers than smaller towns do.

As a result, it is the food purchaser’s job to make sure that they build strong connections with everyone from:

  • Wholesalers
  • Local producers
  • Packers
  • Retailers
  • Cooperative associations
  • Food importers

That being said, the head of restaurant purchasing usually gets in touch with several suppliers to receive their food supply. As a matter of fact, some restaurant wholesalers switch up their products just to appeal to a particular kitchen’s needs.

But here’s the kicker: where does this delicious food even come from? In most instances, meat products are provided from a certified packing house and dry goods are purchased from designated dried products providers. Wherever your food comes from, the most important thing to remember is to clearly document every food purchasing transaction that occurs.

In case you didn’t know, there are two types of food available for purchase:

  • Perishables
  • Non-perishables

For those who are unaware, perishable goods include things like veggies, meat, and dairy. Not only that, but fruit, fish, and poultry fall under the same category as well. Our general rule of thumb is to purchase perishable goods as fresh as humanly possible.

On the other hand, other perishable goods like frozen meat, fish, and veggies can be stored for much longer, although they’re not as popular as fresh perishables. What’s the real deal about non-perishables?

In a nutshell, non-perishable goods can last a long time on the shelves without refrigeration. Of course, this includes foods such as cereal, flour, and condiments. Don’t forget about classic non-perishables like pickles and olives as well.

But what makes food prices rise, anyway?

What Makes Food Prices Rise?

Not sure what makes food prices rise? We’ve got you covered. For the uninitiated, there are a couple of factors at play here, including the time of the year when food is in season.

Yes, you read that right. When it’s the right time of the year to harvest a particular food, it’s typically much more bountiful and affordable in your regional supply. Naturally, this means that restaurant purchasing for seasonal foods is going to be super cheap during this time.

On top of that, food that’s in season typically lasts longer and has better quality levels than out of season foods that have to travel very far to reach the market. As if that’s not enough, periods of really bad weather can have a large effect on food prices as well. How do we know this?

The answer simple. Anytime that natural disasters like frost, flooding, and drought occur, it’s not uncommon for food producers to drive up their prices in response to the shortage. Also, transportation costs help to raise food prices too.

That’s because paying for more expensive fuel means that transportation costs have to rise to bring food to the market. Another key factor is something called “commodity prices,” which includes foods like grains and meats. Don’t be surprised when these prices change as buyers decide to purchase in bulk or not.

So, what should you do before you get into food purchasing? We’re glad that you asked. More often than not, you should consider the following before you make your food purchase:

  • When exactly will the item be consumed?
  • Which manufacturer has the highest quality and lowest price?
  • What time will the item arrive at the restaurant?

Once you figure this part out, ordering the perfect quantity from suppliers should be a breeze!

Food Specifications

First of all, what on earth are food specifications? To put it simply, food specifications can apply to any seafood, meat, fruit, or veggie that can be ordered by a restaurant. For those who are still scratching their heads, here’s the breakdown.

Check this out: when it comes to ordering meat, there are various weights, cuts, and grades available. Not to mention fat limits, packaging, and age preferences. Keep this in mind next time you’re choosing which meat is the best fit for your restaurant.

And then there’s seafood, which restaurant purchasers prefer to order by type. Other things to look out for are the species, grade, and condition of the seafood that you’re buying as well. In addition, where the fish came from, if it is frozen or fresh, and its size are essential factors to consider.

What about poultry? Like most meats, this is also organized by class, grade, and type. Besides this, you have to know the poultry style, freshness, and size that your restaurant needs before you place your order as well.

Moving forward, processed veggies and fruits can be sorted by their size, type, grade, variety, and drained weight. Also, you have to decide between fresh or frozen processed goods for your place of business too.

Similar to processed veggies and fruits, fresh veggies and fruits are ordered by weight per container, variety, size, and grade. Pro tip: it pays to know where your fresh goods are grown and how many are in each container. We promise you won’t regret it!

Contracts and Purchasing Processes

Now, let’s take an inside look at food contracts and purchasing processes. For certain hotels and restaurants, especially those that are part of a chain, there may already be a contract process in place to buy food items. In most cases, this means that you’ll only be able to buy a particular good from a particular supplier.

But here’s the catch: you might get a deal on the prices of the goods that you contracted, which will remain fixed until your negotiation ends. That means no more worrying about constant spikes in food costs for your restaurant. However, that also removes the opportunity to do price comparisons between different food suppliers as well.

Who’s really in charge of food purchasing procedures? Usually, all food ordering and purchasing is done by a kitchen’s chefs and sous-chefs. And if you’ve got a larger kitchen on your hands, then there are typically whole purchasing departments ready to take on this complex task.

With a list of delivery dates, contacts, and suppliers, many successful kitchens use their order sheets to guide their next round of purchasing. For those restaurateurs who are prepping for a big event like a banquet, you should be prepared to order enough supplies to serve a single function on top of your regular food order.

How do you know how much food to order for a special event? It’s actually easier than you’d think. Thanks to ultra-handy portion control charts, figuring out the precise amount of food you’ll need for a particular event should be stress-free.

For guaranteed success, be sure to use a portion control chart to order the correct amount of supplies and ingredients for a certain number of guests.

Having a hard time with the purchasing process? We highly recommend that you invest in restaurant purchasing software!

Become a Restaurant Purchasing Pro

Do you want to become a restaurant purchasing pro? You’re not alone. Whether you’re new to the restaurant business or you’ve been doing it for decades, there’s always something new to learn.

Thankfully for you, we got your back. From sourcing the food purchasing market and navigating rising food prices to food specifications and purchasing processes, our complete guide has everything you need to gain a headstart on the competition.

Are you someone that deals with packers, local producers, and wholesalers on a regular basis? If so, then you’ll already know how essential it is to know what to order from food importers, cooperative associations, and retailers.

Do you know when exactly will the item be consumed? Between selecting the manufacturer that has the highest quality and lowest price and what time an item will arrive at the restaurant, restaurant purchasing can be pretty confusing.

But with our help, getting your food purchase order will be a no-brainer. Looking for more software tips? Check out our blog now!


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